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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NBA REPORT

Odom's presence crucial for Mavs


NEW YORK — Time to check your Odom-eter:

Anyone who purchased a ticket for Saturday night's D-League tilt in scenic midtown Frisco, Texas, in the hopes of eyeballing Lamar Kardashian, his wife or a stray sister or two, wasted money.

The out-of-service Maverick was ordered back to Dallas, who like the Newt Gingrich campaign, would cheerfully accept theoretic help anywhere it can find it.

The grumpy Mavs had lost four in a row minus Odom, including Friday's defeat in New Orleans, identified by Dirk Nowitzki as the "low point of the season."

To suggest Odom, who left the team late last month to tend to family issues, packed it in since Mark Cuban seemingly shoplifted him from the Lakers, would be an insult to the globe's grocery baggers.

We're talking fewer than eight points and less than 36 percent from the field in 21 minutes per game of minimal amperage and maximum indifference.

I'm not saying Lamar has looked lost, but Texans were having Rick Perry debate flashbacks.

So, how did Odom cope in his awkward return?

Mincing no words or the meaning of his message following the Mavs' therapeutic 102-96 conquest, Rick Carlisle branded Lamar's nine-point, five-rebound, three-assist, three-snuff, zero-turnover, 19-minute effort "By far, the most energy he's shown this season. I defy anyone to dispute that statement.

"Clearly we need that from him every night. We need him to bring that type of energy and engagement. If he does, we can be good. I believe he can do it. He's certainly capable."

Such competence obviously benefits Dallas in many ways. Individually, nobody profits more than Nowitzki. Odom's primary purpose is power forward relief so Dirk can freshen up longer without the team compromising anything of consequence other than outpost accuracy.

Hence, our first glimpse of management's preseason vision:

In the wake of a 7-for-19 malfunction against the Hornets, Nowitzki jumped the Jazz for 40 points (14-for-21 FG, 9-for-10 FT) in a mere 29 minutes.

Sources say, from now on, Carlisle wants his name spelled with a K.

This just in: Richie Kalikow reports Khloe has been recalled from the D-List.

* * *

The Heat were supposed to play the Lakers on Sunday afternoon, surfing the summit of a 10-game win streak with a New Orleans Saints-approved bounty on Dwyane Wade.

Then, in typical Hollywood fashion, the screenplay got rewritten.

After mailing in much of the first three quarters Friday night at Utah — trailing by as many as 18 — Miami finally received ABC's urgent memo. Led by LeBron James (8-for-9 FG, good for 17-points in the final dozen minutes) the Heat took a late lead.

However, a short-armed free throw (after converting the previous nine) by Wade and his subsequent mental mistake (fouling Devin Harris on a floater) left the Heat in a one-point ditch.

Welcome to the next stop on LeBron's never-ending "Damned If He Does, Damned If He Don't" World Tour.

Instead of shooting on the left elbow after faking and dribbling into an open-fire lane, LeBron decided to defer. A nifty, no-look bounce pass found Udonis Haslem alone at the right of the foul line, where he habitually drains them. You could tell the trajectory was off target the moment it left his right hand.

LeBron was immediately placed on suicide drills watch.

"It's a read-and-react game," he murmured long afterward. "I don't come out of the timeout saying I'm going to make the pass. I come out saying we need to get the best look. It's just the way I've always played the game. It always comes to light when teammates don't make the shot. When the teammates (don't) make the shot, it doesn't matter much from a media perspective."

Alas, only when such astute ball handling decisions pay off in a chip or two will that deformed viewpoint be invalidated.

How many times did that Jordan guy find an open teammate for game-winners?

Teams without understudies who occasionally overachieve never get crowned.

It's so simple, even TNT's Shaq, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith can figure it out.

* * *

Interesting that Kevin Love's winning performance Saturday night in Portland added up to 42 points considering his lucky number is 42, his uniform is 42, and Connie Hawkins, his all-time favorite player, wore No. 42.

Except for Kevin McHale, how many other NBA executives honestly believed Love deserved to be drafted as high as No. 5?

Because of a staggering skill set, ferocity and dedication, Love is guaranteed to get better and better every year, characteristics only the greats boast.

Pat Riley certainly didn't sense this tsunami coming. In the spring of 2008, the Heat field general worked out Love in West Los Angeles and later implored Kevin to keep the private session on the down low.

Padre Riles admittedly was blown away. He told Love afterward, "I'm going to figure out a way to draft you."

The 19-year-old replied, "That's easy, Mr. Riley, you have the second pick in the draft."

Apparently Riley couldn't follow that line of thinking. Instead, he selected Michael Beasley, whose juvenile behavior, hopscotch of six high schools, delinquent defense, outlandish auto expenditures and reputation as a joker and a smoker and a midnight toker was well known and hard-earned.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.


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